Cityscapes by Anthony Khayat (ed.), Sara Khayat (ed.), Gabby McCullough (ed.), and Willie Watt (ed.)

Cityscapes edited by Anthony Khayat, Sara Khayat, Gabby McCullough, and Willie WattRevealing the immense power of individual perspective to turn even the most banal of experiences into a meaningful event, and then adding the counterpoint that this makes each person responsible for their life being banal, this collection suggests that the real cityscape might be the spaces between the buildings. Vibrant, emotive, meaningful, yet also fun, the works make full use of the human mind being both the first and ultimate white space.

This anthology contains forty poems, prose scenes, and short stories by M. Alden, Brian Andrade, Dani Blue, Derek Childs, Anthony Khayat (Ace Kingsly), Sara Khayat, Gabby McCullough, r. miller, Melanie Sherri Shaw, Brittany Piché, Willie Watt (williedakid); along with eleven black-and-white photographs.

Stubby, wet fingers thumped across
aging spines in an arrhythmic tune,
footsteps pattering a rippling
complimentary drum beat.

– ‘The Library’, Gabby McCullough

Shifting between accessible, almost formal, structures and abandonment of almost every ‘rule’ of usage, the works are united by a focus on the nuanced experience of urban living. Putting the lie to Dostoevsky’s suggestion that unhappy families are unique but happy families are generic, the anthology shows that anything is unique or generic depending on the distance from which you view it.

ΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞ

sitting shotgun
your lighthouse eyes
searching for a way out or
a good time

i want to ask

what are we becoming?

but i know the answer isn’t worth
knowing

(wind with whiskey on its breath)

– Sara Khayat

While, unsurprisingly, the greatest immediate variation is apparent in the poetry, the prose works demonstrate a similar more-than-technical variety. From the almost inevitable presence of a coffee chain in the waiting room to the afterlife to the high-octane thrills of collecting a mis-delivered package, the challenges and banalities of modern Western life are recast as facets of personal evolution.

I am also the ninety-ninth
innocent childhood dream
of Adolf Hitler.

– ‘Solipsism’, Willie Watt

However, the anthology also challenges the concept of relativism. Individuals are distinct from the city, but the city is in the most meaningful senses the individuals rather than the physical structures. Every moment takes its meaning from the way we see it, but no moment is seen by only one person.

Feel the loneliness
Painted in Picasso-blue tears
Lunar streets guided by yellow-white lights
Engulfed in shadows, the city is an empty body

I’m the parasite
Walking through its grey ribcage

– ‘Lunar Streets’, Brian Andrade

This dichotomy might be at its most stark in Dani Blue’s (perceived) diptych ‘A Customary Kind of Man’ and ‘Momma’s House’: in the first, an average, normal, safe, conformist life is revealed as special; in the second, a life on the edge of acceptability and well without respectability cannot break the shell of teenage ennui.

You
cannot live without what I have
come here to discuss. You know
of whom I speak; you have seen
her smiling whilst running
through Richmond; you have
seen her jacket on the Elizabeth
street train. Not an hour goes by
when you’re not thinking about
her, and yet she doesn’t even
know your name.’

– ‘On the Steps of Melbourne’, Derek Childs

This sense of being separated from life, first encountered undercutting joy in McCullough’s ‘The Library’, weaves throughout the collection. And, while the parallel thread of meaning coming from the perception of meaning provides an escape, the path out is not one that can be given or purchased; it must be sought by interacting with your environment rather than accepting it.

Possibly I’ll find a lifestyle shake that doesn’t involve me
begging for happiness
at the bottom of a bottle.
Or a bagel filled with deferred ambitions that clog my arteries
with motivation.

– ‘A Midnight Snack’, Dani Blue

However, the anthology is not depressing. Anthony Khayat’s ‘Pissing in the Lone Toilet at the Hookah Lounge Down the Street’, an exploration of whether the risk of wiping up someone else’s urine is greater than the risk the next person in the queue will think you missed the bowl, among other works, reframes the deep philosophical questions of life as just another absurdity seen from an angle.

Overall, I enjoyed this anthology greatly. I recommend it to readers seeking a range of perspectives on Western urban living or a pleasing mix of art.

I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for a fair review

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